The wind pushed and pulled at him like a hundred hands. It whipped at him, stinging through his clothes. His eyes watered as he neared the surface, stung by the bright glow of the sun reflecting off the ice. Despite the battles he had fought, and the monsters he had fled, he had never experienced anything so hostile. He went to the deepest places in his mind, drawing on every bit of strength he could find, using it to work past the winds and grasp the rope at the top of the wall.
When we set out to write A Line in the Ice, we knew from the start it was set in Antarctica. The idea germinated from a dream Pepper had, and as we discussed it, the more vivid and vital the setting became. It wasn’t just that we were both fascinated by the possibilities it presented to our hero and heroine. We loved the fact that we could turn it into a character in its own right, a presence felt throughout the book, no matter where the action was taking place.
Our love for using setting as a character goes back a long way. Pepper is a longtime fan of westerns and Stephen King, both notorious for doing the exact same thing. Vivien grew up with science fiction and fantasy, where world-building is often crucial to sucking the reader into the story. When the setting is as real as the characters, it’s that much easier to immerse yourself into a strange new world and get lost laughing, fighting, and loving with your hero and heroine.
Our determination to utilize Antarctica as a setting was reinforced when we saw the BBC Top Gear: Polar Special episode. In it, hosts Clarkson, May, and Hammond were challenged to be the first people to drive a motor vehicle to the Magnetic North Pole. Okay, it’s not actually Antarctica, but it’s still a dangerous, ice-covered end of the world, and the stark beauty and vicious hazards that the show presented excited us anyway.
What would it be like to be stuck in such an environment? How would you survive? What if you weren’t expected to do much surviving at all? What if your worst enemy wasn’t even the cold and unforgiving terrain? All these were questions that drove us forward as we hashed out the story.
Turning Antarctica into a character in its own right ended up dictating how the other characters evolved. We knew the people who could battle and win against such odds had to be tough. We also knew we wanted our heroine to be pretty kick-ass. Charlie Weller is an Air Force pilot assigned to what is known as the Spook Squad, a team of six who are trained to live in such extreme conditions as well as fight in them. One of two women assigned to guard the rift, she’s an expert at both hand-to-hand and arms fighting as well as a superb pilot. If she goes down, it’s when she’s swinging.
Because Charlie and the others were so tough, we needed to find some balance. Lysander Davies is just as capable physically as any of the soldiers he finds, but he’s more open emotionally, with a deep, fervent passion for the classical literature he was raised on. He quotes Shakespeare and considers honor as important as honesty. That doesn’t mean he can’t hold his own. Oh, that’s definitely not true. But he brings a different side to these soldiers with a mission, one that puts a human face on the war they’re trying desperately not to lose.
Would it be the same book if it wasn’t set in Antarctica? Absolutely not. Because it’s not just a place.
It’s a presence.
Think about your favorite stories. What have been some of the settings you absolutely can’t forget? The places that were as full of life as the characters? Is it Diana Gabaldon’s Scotland? Ilona Andrews’s Atlanta? Share your favorites so others can fall in love with them, too!
A Line in the Ice is available now from Carina Press.